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Rent stress high, report shows

Tenants Union of Victoria report highlights financial pressures of low-income Shepparton renters.

JARROD WHITTAKER February 26, 2014 4:04am

Shepparton low-income tenants are struggling to find affordable housing, with many contributing a high portion of their income to rent.

A Tenants Union of Victoria report found tenants on Centrelink benefits and the minimum wage were feeling the pinch.

The analysis compared eight low-income groups and the percentage of income paid on rent across several different housing types using median rent.

It found five of the eight groups assessed as part of the report paid more than 30 per cent or more of their income on rent.

For low-income households spending, this amount or more on rent was an indicator of housing stress, the report said.

The report found a single Shepparton tenant on an Austudy benefit was paying 52 per cent of income a week on rent for a one-bedroom flat.

A single tenant on the higher rate Newstart allowance was only slightly better off, paying 44.8 per cent of income towards rent.

The median rent for a one-bedroom flat in Shepparton is $140 a week.

Singles under 21 years on Newstart sharing a two-bedroom flat were better off, paying 33.9 per cent of income.

Primary Care Connect counselling manager Kim Scott said the figures for low-income earners were not surprising.

‘‘We know that ... it’s taking a high percentage of income to pay the rent. That has a flow-on to paying other utilities and food,’’ Ms Scott said.

‘‘It’s not just rent as well, it’s mortgages. People with a mortgage might be on a low income and find it hard to service it.’’

A single parent with a child on a parenting payment paid 33.8 per cent of income towards a $190 rent bill.

A couple with two children on Newstart in a three-bedroom house was worse off, paying 36 per cent.

The median rent for a Shepparton three-bedroom house is $260 a week.

Ms Scott said housing stress led to a drop in spending in other areas.

‘‘You’re looking at school affordability costs as well, you’re looking at a decline in recreational spending,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re quite busy with our financial counselling, so it is a significant problem.’’

Three of the assessed groups paid less than 30 per cent of income in rent.

This included couples with two children in a three-bedroom house on the minimum wage and average weekly earning, respectively.

The third group was aged pensioners in a one-bedroom flat.

Tenants Union of Victoria policy and liaison worker James Bennett said the report painted a ‘‘bleak’’ picture.

‘‘We often talk about housing affordability, however what we’re really talking about most of the time is housing unaffordability for low-income households,’’ Mr Bennett said.

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